condescending twatbags, divorce, domestic violence, Ex

Promoting the myth of “one big happy family”…

I’ve been a subscriber of The Atlantic since last year. I do read a lot of the articles. In fact, I read more of The Atlantic than I do a lot of the other periodicals to which I am subscribed. However, over the past year I’ve noticed a few things. First off, a lot of the articles are recycled repeatedly on Facebook. Secondly, they keep nagging me to turn auto-renew on, even though I clearly made a conscious decision to disable it (big surprise– auto-renew is turned on by default). In their emails pleading with me “not to miss an issue”, they point out that they’ll tell me before they charge me, and I always have the choice to disable auto-renew. If that’s the case, why not just let me make that choice for myself and leave me the fuck alone about it? And thirdly, so many of The Atlantic’s articles are incredibly depressing, outright ridiculous, and/or overly and annoyingly “woke”. I’m not sure if I will resubscribe when my current subscription ends next month, but the emails pleading for me to let them automatically take my money are off putting.

Reading The Atlantic the other day kind of led to yesterday’s slow news day on my blog. I kind of had to take a mental health day and just write a book review. I went a little nuts on Tuesday. It started with the cannelloni I decided to make for lunch. I wanted some red wine to go with it, even though I usually try not to imbibe when Bill isn’t home. Well… I started enjoying the wine, then I got online and read an article in The Atlantic. It was another one of Lori Gottlieb’s Dear Therapist columns, dated from June 2019. The piece was entitled “Dear Therapist: I Can’t Stand My Fiancée’s Ex-Husband”. The sub title-explanation was, “He wants to take pictures with her and their daughter like they’re still one happy family—and I want him to stop.” Below is the letter in the article:

Dear Therapist,

I am engaged to be married to a wonderful woman who has a 6-year-old daughter with her ex-husband. They share joint custody. A major contributing factor in her decision to end their marriage was her ex’s controlling nature. Even now, after being divorced for more than two years, he tries to control her life.

One of the ways he tries to do this is by insisting on taking pictures of the three of them at every function where they are all present. First day of school, graduations, etc.—he has to have pictures taken of himself with my fiancée and their daughter as if they are still one big happy family.

Since the divorce, he has gotten engaged as well. I can only assume his fiancée must find these odd “not-a-family pictures” as strange as my fiancée and I do. The sole reason we haven’t shut him down when he insists on them is that we think maybe it is a nice thing for the little girl to have pictures of herself with her mom and dad. But we dread every event when we know he is going to expect this.

Will it do the daughter any harm to stop him the next time he starts insisting on this  awkward situation?

Lori Gottlieb’s advice to the letter writer who can’t stand his fiancee’s ex husband was to cooperate for the sake of the child. She explained that she has had many children of divorce in her office who have lamented about how their parents didn’t get along. She evidently sees nothing wrong with the letter writer’s ex husband insisting on family pictures, even though both his fiancee and the ex husband have found new partners and the fiancee, apparently, doesn’t like the forced picture taking either. I do think the letter writer is pretty classy for realizing that the photos with both parents might be nice for the daughter. Hopefully, it will mean that he doesn’t try to replace his soon to be stepdaughter’s father. Sounds to me like bio dad isn’t about to let that happen. I can’t blame bio dad for that, but I also don’t think bio dad should be pressuring his ex to do something she’s not comfortable with doing, for the sake of pushing a “one big happy family” myth.

Those of you who know me at all, might know that I automatically sympathize with the letter writer. I didn’t even have to read the guy’s letter to sympathize. Ex pulled that “one big happy family” bullshit on Bill, too… I would include myself in that comment, but she never asked or even considered how I would feel about pushing that narrative. And that was just one of MANY reasons why, over 18 years after my wedding day, I still can’t stand her and don’t want to be associated with her. I have very good reasons for not being able to stand her. At the very top of the list is the fact that my husband saw one of his daughters last year for the first time since 2004!

That’s right. She categorically denied Bill visitation for years while she happily took $2550 a month from him for three children– one of whom wasn’t even his kid (she denied eldest son access to his father, too). Early in our marriage, she tried to strong arm Bill into naming her the beneficiary of life insurance policies valuing $1,000,000, even though he was paying her about half his salary in child support and had already provided $500,000 in life insurance coverage to her. She told vicious lies about him (and me) to the children and even tried to turn his own parents against him. She also abused him in ALL ways– mentally, emotionally, physically, financially, sexually… you name it, she probably did it. He still bears the scars from the physical abuse. Through it all, my husband has been extraordinarily classy. To this day, he doesn’t trash talk his ex wife, although he does commiserate with his younger daughter about her. It turns out she treats her kids as badly as she does her husbands.

I, on the other hand, have absolutely no qualms about trash talking Ex. She totally deserves it, and I make no apologies for despising her. But it didn’t start out that way. Back in 2002, when I was blissfully ignorant about her, I imagined myself being kind and patient and understanding toward Ex and the children. I wanted to be a good stepmother, loving to his children and sharing access to him. I didn’t think I’d be friends with Ex, but I thought maybe we could be civil. I really try to be civil to most people unless they give me a good reason not to be. I encouraged Bill to stay involved with his daughters. I hoped and expected he’d visit them and be part of their lives. I hoped and expected I would be part of their lives, too, in whatever way. In those days, I probably would have been among the naive, glibly telling people in step situations that they must always do everything for the child’s sake, no matter what.

But, as some of my more regular readers know, I’ve only met Bill’s daughters once, back in 2003. I had no influence on their lives, because I wasn’t allowed to be part of their lives. I could have seen them at Christmas in 2004, which was when Bill last saw them together. That last meeting was, unfortunately, a trap, although Ex had tried to frame as a way to show the children that we’re “all one big happy family”. After that Christmas, Ex completely cut off access to the children and Bill lost contact with them for years. Yes, he could have tried going to court, and he did speak to a lawyer about doing that. But in those days, he simply didn’t have the money or the time to devote to child custody hearings. After his divorce, Bill was saddled with a bankruptcy and a foreclosure, and with the kids on the other side of the country, there was no way he could fight without courting financial and professional ruin– two conditions that would not have made him look good to a family court judge, anyway. It probably also would have ruined our marriage, because unlike Ex, Bill would have allowed his daughters total access to their mom. And we would have been fighting with her constantly.

As it stands now, only Bill’s younger daughter is speaking to him. We both feel fortunate that this happened– because for a long time, we never thought it would. And, personally, I had also gotten to the point at which I was trying not to care anymore and just wanted them to leave us alone. Of course, now I’m glad younger daughter is in contact with Bill. She’s turned out to be a good person. Older daughter remains estranged and, at this point, I’m beginning to think that’s the way it will always be. Maybe that’s the way it should be.

Bill had told me when we were dating that his ex wife could “rip me to shreds”. I kind of laughed at that… and it didn’t turn out to be true. I never let her get close enough to me to be able to “rip me to shreds.” I’m not afraid of her. I think she’s a pathetic loser, and I am pissed off that she was able to do the damage she’s done and continues to do. I’m truly sorry that she was abused as a child and is mentally ill, but that does NOT give her the right to harm other people And the fact that she has done SO MUCH HARM to SO MANY PEOPLE means that I can’t stand her, and will NOT cooperate with her, EVER. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with my stance about Bill’s ex wife. She’s not a good person. Fortunately, the girls are now grown women, and I no longer have to worry about pushing the “one big happy family” myth for their sakes.

Anyway… on Tuesday, as I read that article, I visited the comment section and wrote, “Can’t blame him. There’s a reason they’re exes. I can’t stand my husband’s ex wife, either… actually, that is a massive understatement.”

I knew the reaction to my comment was probably going to be negative. I did immediately get one angry emoji. That person apparently blocked me, too. Oh fucking well.

But then I got this comment from some guy named Steve, who wrote… “but if your husband has kids with her, please encourage and support him in being civil for the sake of the children. Being a stepparent that appears against the children’s mother is going to make everything, including your relationship with the kids, much more difficult and stressful for everyone.”

Oh please. This tired screed again? So I responded to the guy, more aggressively than maybe I should have. I won’t lie. I found his comment pretty offensive and presumptuous. I mean, I guess one could assume that I’m the problem because I flat out stated that I can’t stand my husband’s ex. Not knowing anything about me, maybe I would make a similar assumption. It’s a human thing to do. Still, I just felt this overwhelming urge to speak up for people in my situation. It’s really tiresome when people glibly make suggestions like the one Steve made to me. Why would Steve or anyone else assume that someone who comes second or later is going to automatically be the problem when it comes to fostering relationships between divorced parents and their children? Why would he assume that I can’t stand the ex simply because she’s the ex?

There really is a reason why people become exes… and I don’t blame the letter writer for not liking the forced family photos. Those forced family photos are not a reflection of reality, and the ex husband’s insistence on taking them may, indeed, be due to his control issues. Not knowing the people involved, I can only assume they know each other and the situation better than any reader ever could. And while Lori Gottlieb does write that oftentimes, when she speaks to couples, she finds that both parties are equally to blame for problems in a relationship, there are also a lot of situations in which one partner really is a control freak or a narcissistic abuser. The ex insisting on something like taking family photos may seem very minor, in the grand scheme of things, but that might be part of a much larger issue that led to the couple’s split. In any case, I think the fiancee should have the right to veto the photos if she wants to, and no one should judge her for that. The letter writer should be supportive and understanding, no matter what his fiancee chooses to do.

I also agree that divorced couples with children should do their best to work together whenever possible. There’s nothing wrong with encouraging people to be civilized and occasionally “take one for the team”. But when people split up, they should not be expected to promote a false “happy family” image for the child’s sake. If they can do so realistically, that’s one thing. But it sounds like in the letter writer’s situation, at least two of the adults aren’t comfortable with promoting the charade. Their opinions should be respected, too.

Perhaps against my better judgement, I ended up explaining some of my situation to Steve. I’ll admit, my responses were pretty angry– remember, I’m currently lonely, stressed out, and at that point, had been drinking wine. Steve’s off the cuff “advice” had made me angry, because it’s the kind of useless shit I’ve been hearing for years. I’m tired of people assuming I’m the problem, simply because I’m not the mom and I happened to come second. I would have been delighted to have worked with my husband’s ex wife, if she had been similarly willing to cooperate. Unfortunately, that was not how the situation was when the girls were minors. She’s still spinning tales, and taking advantage of anyone who allows her to, and apparently, getting away with it… although younger daughter, at least, has figured her out and doesn’t want her near her children.

When I responded to Steve, I was thinking of the letter writer, as well as all of the other people I know who are in this very same boat. I know my personal story is probably kind of extraordinary. Most people’s exes aren’t as horrifying as Bill’s ex wife is. Most people are in a position to be able to enforce visitation rights, at the very least. Or their exes realize that by denying their children access to their natural parent (as long as there isn’t a damned good reason for them NOT to be), they are hurting the children. On the other hand, I do know some people who are dealing with truly awful, manipulative, controlling, abusive exes… and the people– especially the women– who subsequently get involved with them often end up being labeled as “wicked”, “homewrecker”, or “obstructive”, or they have to endure rude assumptions and questions like “Are you the reason they got divorced?”

Steve and I went back and forth a few times. He turned out to be a pretty okay guy, and I even ended up thanking him, because in the end, he was ultimately understanding and kind. And now that I’m reading my responses to him, sans wine, I realize that I was a bit triggered and, perhaps, more hostile than I should have been. The truth is, things are pretty stressful right now. Bill is on an extended TDY, so I don’t have anyone to talk to, other than online. This isn’t the first time I’ve spent weeks alone, but doing this routine during a pandemic, in a foreign country, and after having been “locked down” for months, is very trying.

I do know things could be worse. Bill is not in a war zone with a narcissist; he isn’t regularly fighting with his ex wife; we are both healthy; and we have plenty of money to pay our bills. I know there are many people out there who would laugh at me and tell me to get over myself. But even though I know things aren’t really that bad and have historically been worse, that doesn’t change the fact that the other day, it was like I’d run into a perfect storm of triggers that got me pretty wound up. The truth is, I kind of exploded… then imploded.

I ended up going to bed early on Tuesday, after a tense and very brief– and incoherent– chat with Bill. We had a much better chat last night and I apologized for the state I was in on Tuesday. He was understanding, as usual, reminding me that this is a “stressful time”. And it is… the boredom, loneliness, and hopelessness of the past fourteen months have taken their toll. It doesn’t help that my husband, who is half vaccinated, is on yet another business trip lasting weeks. I feel like we’re separated. There is a light at the end of the lockdown tunnel, though. In a few weeks, we’ll both be fully vaccinated, and it looks like the TDYs from hell may be over for awhile. And maybe we can do something enjoyable and spend some money on a trip somewhere. Hope springs eternal.

Anyway… I know I should avoid comment sections for the sake of my blood pressure and mental health. But, if I didn’t read comments, I probably wouldn’t have enough material to blog every day. Other people’s reactions and perceptions can make for fertile content mining. I also know that there are people out there who were glad I spoke up about that fake “one big happy family” falsehood. For a lot of us in these step relationships, that just isn’t reality… and I don’t think we do good when we try to present it that way.

Standard
complaints, poor judgment, psychology

She’s down with O.P.M.!

“Wah! Why won’t my boyfriend’s parents financially support me?”

Okay… so you should already know that I don’t have a boyfriend. I am happily married to Mr. Bill, who already supports my unemployed ass without complaint. Today’s blog post title comes from therapist Lori Gottlieb’s column in The Atlantic. The powers that be at The Atlantic decided to rerun one of Lori’s posts on Facebook this morning. I happened to read it before my eyes were fully opened after this morning’s nightmare, which involved Bill bringing home a bag of snakes. I ended up killing two of them with my bare hands! Naturally, that was traumatizing. Thank God it was just a bad dream. Bill has already tried to interpret it, though. He’s very Jungian that way.

A little old school mood music for this post… although O.P.P. is not quite the same thing as O.P.M. is…

Anyway, the post I read in Lori Gottlieb’s column this morning was originally published on December 24, 2018. A woman named Zoe, writing from Edinburgh, Scotland, writes that she’s involved in a long distance relationship with a man who has a twin brother.

Zoe’s boyfriend, whom she’s been dating for five years, but isn’t yet ready to marry (as of 2018, anyway), has a doctorate from a “top” university. He has a job and is “doing right” in life. The boyfriend’s brother, on the other hand, is apparently aimless and shiftless. He doesn’t have a degree, and has bounced from college to college. He moved to Florida, married an “older” woman (horrors!), and now has a baby girl with his wife (double horrors!).

Zoe’s issue is that the twin brothers’ very wealthy parents are “lavishing” money on the “aimless” twin, his wife, and their baby. But Zoe, as the long suffering “girlfriend” of the more established twin, is “out in the cold”. She is, herself, in a doctoral program and claims she will not be ready for marriage or child bearing for some time. And she feels it’s unfair that her boyfriend’s rich parents aren’t sharing their piece of the pie with her.

In other words, Zoe’s down with O.P.M. (other people’s money), and they aren’t getting with the program by sharing the wealth with her. She clearly feels like she has her shit together and is worthy of some renumeration from the boyfriend’s rich parents for being the girlfriend of the “good” twin, who also apparently has his shit together… except for the fact that he has terrible taste in girlfriends.

Perhaps mitigating what sounds like an outrageous attitude of entitlement to me, is the fact that Zoe’s family of origin has been “torn apart” because Zoe’s Granny didn’t share her money equitably with her children. And now, people in Zoe’s family all resent each other. She makes it sound like she’s worried for the twin brothers and their relationship, rather than just feeling greedy and entitled to O.P.M.– that is, other people’s money.

Zoe’s boyfriend has told her that she needs to zip it about this issue, since “the financial matters should be between him, his brother, and his parents.”

But Zoe, who has been dating the guy for five years but “isn’t ready” to put a ring on it, says “… if we are planning to spend our lives together, shouldn’t I also be able to voice an opinion on these things?” Uh huh… she’s definitely down with O.P.M.

Zoe writes that she would be “grateful” for any advice, since she’s so upset and jealous that she can barely think. And that is sure to be having a deleterious effect on her studies in her “doctoral” program, which is very important to her. Not that there’s anything wrong with being committed to higher education and finishing what one starts, of course.

Okay… well, I was glad to see that Lori Gottlieb rather gently and constructively pointed out what is blindingly obvious to all but the most obtuse of us. Zoe’s boyfriend’s parents are entitled to spend their money as they see fit. It’s their money. What the potential parents-in-law do with their money is none of Zoe’s goddamned business, especially when she has no legal ties to their family. But even if she and twin doctoral guy were married, it would still be O.P.M., and none of her business how the in-laws spend their dough. It’s their money!

I can’t believe that someone who is supposedly smart enough to be pursuing a doctoral degree doesn’t understand this basic fact. I wonder how Zoe would feel if, years from now, she’s made a nice living for herself and has a pile of money saved. And then some person dating one of her hypothetical offspring has an “issue” with how she doles out her largesse. There’s no legal requirement for parents to give their adult children any help whatsoever, financial or otherwise. Certainly the girlfriend isn’t entitled to anything from her boyfriend’s parents. If they choose to give her anything, she should be extremely happy about it and STFU. If they choose not to give it to her, she should also STFU. Access to their money is not her right, even if she and their son have been dating forever.

Maybe it’s just me, since I don’t expect much of an inheritance myself. My parents didn’t inherit anything but furniture and an old car from my mom’s dad, when he passed in 1979. When my Granny died in 2007, I don’t remember my dad, who was then 74 years old, getting anything from her estate. My mom has been living in a really beautiful senior assisted living apartment since 2009. It’s not a cheap place to stay. I don’t expect much of anything from her estate, when she dies. I’m just thankful that she’s still able to take care of herself, financially and otherwise.

My mom was pretty smart, as she gave me and my sisters special heirlooms as we were growing up. But I can’t imagine having the nerve to tell my mom, who is feisty, opinionated, and brooks no nonsense, that she needs to “share the wealth” with me. My mom hasn’t been the most demonstrative mother in the world, but she and my dad were always financially generous when they could be, and my mom, in particular, helped me a lot when I needed it. I’m simply grateful for that. As for my in-laws, I certainly wouldn’t have dreamed of expecting either of Bill’s parents or his stepmother to give me a dime, especially when we were just dating.

That being said… having been through graduate school myself, I understand how financially stressful it can be. I lived on the proceeds of student loans and part time jobs– a graduate assistantship that paid $10 an hour and had limited hours I could work, and a job waiting tables at a country club with very occasional tips (but free food and a pretty decent hourly wage). I remember some stressful times during those three years, and I worried a lot about how things would be paid for. I was blessed in a number of ways when I was in school, though I sure wouldn’t want to repeat those lean years. Still, I handled my own business back then. I didn’t start mooching off of Bill until we were married and I started putting out.

Actually, given the financial havoc wreaked on him by his ex wife, I feel lucky that Bill trusts me and shares access to his good fortune with me, at all. It did take a few years after we married before he did start trusting me, and that was because he went to war in Iraq and I had to handle the bills. Since then, I have repaid his trust by investing some of his money. At this writing, the money I’ve invested on his behalf is about equal to what he paid for my education– we’re even about $10,000 ahead. It’s his money, though, and I’m grateful that he shares it with me, even as he insists that he considers his earnings “our money”. And I sure didn’t expect him to share it when we were dating, especially after what he’d already been through in his first marriage.

I guess I can kinda see why it’s distressing for Zoe to have a long-term, but unofficial, relationship with her boyfriend and feel jealous that his twin brother married an “older” (HORRORS!) woman who is getting so much financial help from the parents. But if she’s expecting the same level of generosity as the twin brother and his wife are getting, she will probably have to make the relationship official by way of marriage, at the very least. Even then, there’s absolutely neither a guarantee nor a requirement for her boyfriend’s parents to give either of them any cash. It’s entirely up to the boyfriend’s parents how they spend their money. And I’m not even sure, based on Zoe’s letter, that the boyfriend even wants to marry her. Maybe he’s smarter than we realize.

Zoe would do well to figure out how to make her own money, if it’s that important to her. If she marries her boyfriend, they can decide together how money matters will be handled. Even then, his parents shouldn’t be a part of the equation or expectation for support. If they do decide to contribute, Zoe should simply be grateful and zip it, other than to say “Thank you” to the in-laws for anything they do for her.

Frankly, I think Zoe ought to consider breaking up with her boyfriend, if this problem is really that upsetting for her. Or, really, I think her boyfriend, who sounds a lot wiser and more sensitive than she is, should consider breaking up with Zoe. She sounds like an insensitive clod. At the very least, I think Zoe should have an empathy check and, perhaps, put herself in her boyfriend’s shoes. I’m sure it’s embarrassing and irritating to him that his girlfriend is creating an issue over how his parents spend their money. He’s obviously a smart man, with a doctorate from a “top” university. He could probably do better. And then Zoe can quit obsessing over other people’s money (O.P.M.) and focus on building her career, which is obviously more of a priority for her right now (or at least in 2018) than family matters are.

You’d think someone smart enough to earn a doctorate would know better, right? But there are plenty of people with Ph.D.s who are down with O.P.M. 😉

Standard
divorce, Ex

A long, strange trip…

This morning started like any other morning, nowadays. I woke up at about 4:00am. I thought maybe Arran needed to go out, but apparently it was just my internal alarm clock. About a half hour later, I got up to let the dogs pee and feed them. I prefer to feed them a little later, but they were obviously ready to eat. Then I went back to bed to read up on current events.

A couple of hours later, I came across a column in The Atlantic written by Lori Gottlieb, a therapist who has also written several books. I read one of her books years ago. It was called Stick Figure: A Diary of My Former Self, and it was a surprisingly entertaining account of her experiences with anorexia nervosa. Which isn’t to say that I think Gottlieb’s book is the best one on the subject. I do remember writing a review for Epinions.com and not giving it a glowing review, even though I thought the writing was kind of oddly quirky and sometimes even funny.

Anyway, Gottlieb, who grew up in California, is now a columnist for The Atlantic and works as a psychotherapist in New York City. This morning, there was a link to a column she posted on January 28, 2019. The post was entitled “Dear Therapist: I’m Dating a Divorced Man With Kids, and It’s Harder Than I Thought”. This was written in the days before the fucking COVID-19 pandemic happened. As such, it seems oddly normal.

The letter writer explains that she’s 33 years old and her boyfriend is 48. He is divorced, while she’s never been married. He has three kids from his failed marriage. Letter writer has none. Right off the bat, I connected. I am almost eight years younger than Bill is, and of course, he was divorced and had two kids with his ex wife. He also has an ex stepson that he’d always treated (and paid for) as his own son, although it later became clear that ex stepson didn’t see Bill the way Bill saw him. Maybe his sentiments have changed with age, but he hasn’t spoken to Bill since 2009, when he got busted red-handed trying to pull a fast one over Bill’s money.

The letter writer explains that she is fed up with her boyfriend’s ex wife, who is very needy, dramatic, and apparently a leech. Letter writer is having trouble coming to terms with having the ex in her life. She texts the boyfriend for all manner of things including discipline of the kids. Letter writer feels intruded upon and although she loves her man very much, the ex looms in the shadows. And every time the phone goes off, the letter writer feels violated.

I know how she feels. For most of my marriage to Bill, I have had a deep resentment and outright hatred for his ex wife. I’m not going to sugar coat it, because that’s truly how I’ve felt, and it hasn’t been without reason. However, unlike the ex in the letter writer’s situation, Bill’s ex was infinitely more toxic and hateful. She made it impossible for Bill to have any relationship whatsoever with his children as she bled him dry financially. She told baldfaced lies to the children about how Bill and I met and told his parents lies about his behavior toward her. For years, she had Bill’s stepmother believing that he was a wife beater. My husband’s stepmother actually asked me if Bill abused me like he did Ex. I actually laughed out loud at that notion because it was so ridiculous.

The first few years of our marriage were truly “broke” years, as Bill sent half his salary to his ex wife, who treated him like shit. I blame my husband’s ex wife for the fact that I never had children. I don’t think I’m wrong to blame her, either. Bill had a vasectomy because she demanded that he get one. Then she divorced Bill and had two more children with her third husband. Meanwhile, we were too broke to be able to afford reproductive assistance at the time when it would have been the most likely to be successful. Bill did, at least, have the vasectomy reversed by the Army. That felt like taking back a bad decision that Bill was bullied into making. I wish we could have had a baby together… but as I’ve said recently, maybe it’s a blessing that we didn’t.

As we’ve gotten older, our financial situation has markedly improved, but I had to let go of the idea of being a mother. Meanwhile, Bill’s daughters disowned him and refused to speak to him at all for about fifteen years. I can’t tell you how many times Bill cried over being shut out of his daughters’ lives. It was extremely painful and totally unnecessary. What can I say? She’s more interested in maintaining control and hurting people than doing the right thing for her children.

As time went on, the resentment simmered… until early 2017, when Bill and his younger daughter started to reconnect. I was beginning to think I would always have rage toward my husband’s ex wife and daughters. I didn’t trust younger daughter when she started talking to Bill. I didn’t want her in our lives, because I was under the impression that she was like her mother. For the first fourteen years of our marriage, they were always in the shadows, looming over everything. I was tired of the drama and the intrusions, especially on holidays. Ex had made it clear that she only wanted Bill’s money and to blame him for the way her life was. The children wouldn’t speak to him or even acknowledge him as their father. I wanted them to cut ties once and for all and just leave us alone.

It turned out that younger daughter isn’t like Ex at all. In fact, it turns out that she’s really Bill’s daughter in terms of her looks and her behavior. A year ago, Bill was in Utah visiting her for the first time since Christmas 2004. A year ago, I wrote a scathing blog post about the revelations that came out after that visit. I was seething with anger about what had happened… but this time, it wasn’t just for Bill. It was for his daughters, too… and everyone else who suffered because of Ex’s lies and manipulations.

The writer of the letter in Lori Gottlieb’s column doesn’t have it nearly as bad as Bill and I did. Although in her case, the ex is certainly a nuisance, it’s clear that the ex lets the children see and speak to their father. She may be needy and intrusive, but it doesn’t sound like she’s purely evil. I’m sure that column will get a lot of rude comments from the masses who have no empathy for women who date men with kids. People always expect women to have endless compassion, patience, and love for the children in a relationship, even if it’s impossible, undeserved, or even undesired.

Lori Gottlieb gave the letter writer sensible advice, letting them know that when you date a man with children, the ex is often part of the package. In most cases, so are the children. I remember being fully prepared to accept Bill’s children, although not being a child of divorce myself, I couldn’t necessarily relate to their trauma. But I had an open mind and an open heart, and I was prepared to do what I could… at least in the early years. When they were at their most alienated, I will admit I closed myself off. I was really fed up with the bullshit and it was the only way I could stand it.

I’m glad Bill didn’t close off his heart. A year ago today, he saw his daughter in person and they shared a long hug and spent two solid days talking. It was a very good visit, overall. Bill met his son in law and grandchildren. But, as it always is whenever Ex is involved in anything, there was a lot of time spent debriefing and clearing the air. I’ve visited Bill’s late dad’s house three times. All three times, we basically sat around and talked about Ex and her crazy shit. Bill’s dad never got a chance to really get to know me before he died last year. So much time and energy was spent trying to deal with the crazy shit she threw at us. The same went for Bill’s two short days with his daughter, with whom he faithfully Skypes and emails now. Older daughter remains estranged, to her detriment.

This morning, I changed the privacy settings on those two posts I wrote about last year’s visit. The first one is very raw and profane, because I was extremely angry about how Ex had gotten away with torturing her family for so many years. The second one is less intense, but I had it protected anyway. A year has passed and the pain is much less intense now… with a year, comes perspective. Bill and I know we can survive, and our love has stood some pretty horrible stuff. I’ve come to respect Bill’s younger daughter. I can’t say I love her yet, because we’ve still only met in person once. But I’m willing to try, because I know Bill adores his daughters. Nothing would please him more than to have both of them in his life.

I used to have a flaming hot rage toward Ex. I truly hated her with a passion. I was obsessed with my hatred for her and my outrage at how she got away with blatant abuse that other people tolerated. I know that hating her was harmful to me, but I just couldn’t help it. She was just a despicable, horrible, abusive woman. And people would blame me for her shit. I couldn’t even talk about it without risking comments from the uninformed, trying to blame it on me. Listen… I am plenty willing to accept responsibility when I screw up. But I honestly had nothing to do with my husband’s divorce from his ex wife, and I never had the chance to screw with his ex wife or their kids. All I did was encourage Bill to be strong and assertive. Abusive liars don’t like that, of course. It makes them angry.

This sums it up.

I can say now that these days, I pretty much don’t care about Ex and rarely think about her anymore. I mostly see her as pathetic now. I hate what she did, and I was extremely angry to hear about the things she did… the lies she told… and the way she treated her children like possessions to be jealously guarded or cast out, as the mood suited her. Ex isn’t a threat to me personally anymore, though, so I don’t really give a shit what happens to her, as long as she stays the fuck away from us.

I pretty much feel the same way about toxic ex landlady, too. As long as she and her flying monkeys don’t mess with me, they are safe from ever having to see or talk to me again. It’s taken me a long time to move past these traumas, but at least I know it’s possible. For a long time, I wondered if I’d ever be able to calm down and stop feeling so agitated about the way we were treated.

I guess what I’ve learned from dealing with that type of person is that you can’t let them get away with their shit. Or, best case scenario, you have to leave them in the dust and go no contact. Sometimes it’s sad or difficult to do that– if the person is a relative or an old friend. Sometimes it’s impossible to go no contact, such as when you have to co-parent and your children haven’t been completely estranged. Other times, it’s nothing but a relief, even if you spend years waiting for the proverbial other shoe to drop.

It’s always regrettable when a relationship goes sour. In some ways, maybe it’s a blessing that Bill didn’t have to deal with his Ex much when the kids were growing up, other than a few very dramatic incidents and sending her so much money every month. But now the girls are women, well over the age of 21 and living their own lives. We don’t have to deal with Ex ever again. Bill and I finally have our peace… for the most part, anyway. I could do without these marathon TDYs.

I guess if I could advise the woman who wrote to Lori Gottlieb, I would tell her that eventually, children grow up and have their own lives. It may seem like the years are stretching ahead, but in our case, they flew by. I can remember thinking how, back in 2004, we would have so many years of dealing with Ex. Before we knew it, those difficult early years were gone. If you love your partner and are determined to hang in there, this situation can pass. It did in our case. In fact, it’s turned around in a very unexpected way. Ex used to infuriate me. I still find her infuriating, but I rarely think about her and mostly pity her on some level. She’s mentally ill and tragic. And she is not a threat.

On another note, I’ve been watching the whole Harry and Meghan drama. I didn’t see their interview with Oprah Winfrey, because I’m not in the USA. But I have read about it… I’m not sure where, exactly, the truth lies. I have a feeling there’s stuff from all sides contributing to the sad situation of today. I do think it’s too bad that Harry and Meghan felt they needed to leave Britain with Archie. All of this stuff is embarrassing and dysfunctional, but in a way, it sort of humanizes the British Royal Family. They have their family dramas, idiosyncrasies, and dysfunction too. It looks like Harry is very alienated right now, and whether or not it’s his fault, I feel for him. Bill’s situation with his daughters has given me more empathy toward children of divorce. It’s much worse when your life is as public as Harry’s has always been.

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